"For My Own Pleasure"
Frank Akschul's Overbrook Press
W. GREGORY GALLAGHER
verbrook Press was founded in 19 34 by Frank Altschul, a
I prominent Wall Street investment banker, whose interest
in printing began when he was a child. One Christmas his
mother gave him a toy press, but ink was soon all over the house and
the press was returned to the store. He retained his interest in print¬
ing and soon after his marriage set up a small press in his New York
apartment. But it was not long before it, too, had to be relinquished
when the space it occupied was needed for his growing family. Years
later, Altschul discovered an explanation for his avocation: no less
than ten of his Bohemian ancestors had been printers.
Thus, in 1934, when Margaret B. Evans, who had previously
been associated with August Heckscher's Ashlar Press, approached
Altschul with the idea of starting a private press, he responded
enthusiastically. A former pigpen on his country estate, Overbrook
Farm, in Stamford, Connecticut, was converted to a print shop, and
a secondhand Colts Armory press was purchased along with a vari¬
ety of type and a treasury of papers, many dating from before the
First Worid War.
Evans became both designer and compositor for the new press
until she was succeeded in 1944 by John Logan, who stayed on until
his death in 1967. When Evans came to Overbrook, she brought
with her master pressman John MacNamara, who remained with
the press until his death in 1955, after which the pressman's job was
filled by Frederick Warns. The Overbrook staff were skilled and
devoted employees who ran the press and did most of the design
work, except for special projects when noted artists were hired.
Altschul decided what to print and to whom to distribute the
printed works. Overbrook imprints were seldom sold; most were
given to family members and to friends and acquaintances, both
business and social. Some works were sent to his clubs and to
schools and libraries with which he was associated.